“I am so frustrated. I have used four different web companies, and none have gotten me the results I need.” It is painful to listen to the stories of hard-working business owners and marketing professionals who have tried to get the job done and failed. Many fail due to a lack of attention to Search Engine Optimization (SEO) best practices.
The fact is, getting on the first page of search results is a zero-sum game. Only one company can be ranked number one for any given search term. This means if you want to get to number one, you must bump somebody off the list. You have to prove to Google that you are the best website to display in the search results and you do that by having better (and more) content. Google uses an algorithm to figure this out, and we must score higher than the competition to rank above them.
Google has over two hundred items in its SEO algorithm, but the most important ones are:
- An Accessible URL
- Page speed
- Site Security
- Domaine age, authority, and URL
- Content Optimized
- Technical SEO
- User Experience
- Social Signals
- Real Business Information
Here’s a breakdown of each item:
An Accessible URL
Google’s bots need to be able to ‘crawl’ your website and gain an understanding of what it is about. To gain an advantage you need to help the bots do this.
Your website must meet Google’s webmaster standards. One of those standards is a xml sitemap and a robots.txt file. These are what is required to tell Google where it can and can’t look on your site and what pages you have.
if you are using WordPress, there are tools like Yoast and XML Sitemaps that will automate most of this for you. If not, make sure you have these files and they are done right.
How Page Speed Affects Search Rankings
The user experience is greatly enhanced by your website being lightning-fast. If your site takes 2 seconds or more to load your bounce rate will go up dramatically; people are so impatient.
Some of the ways to increase speed include reducing the number of requests, enabling compression, allowing browser caching, optimizing images, reducing redirects, and hosting your site on a dedicated and managed server.
Website Security Improves SEO
Make sure your website is using HTTPS protocol, check this by looking at your URL; it should have a green padlock to the left of it.
Update your CMS, plugins, and all other items on your website. The reason for this is that the bad actors are looking for openings into your site. When a weakness is found the software companies fix it through updates, this only works if you keep the updates current. Updates should be done weekly.
Host your site on the most modern and secure hosting platform. Be wary of ‘shared’ hosting platform; always use a private hosting environment, so you are not exposed to the weaknesses of other websites.
Change your passwords regularly, make them long and complicated using numbers and special symbols, and for best results use some form of two-factor authentication.
Make sure your personal and business computers are secure; your computer is the simplest way into your website.
Mobile Friendliness is a Critical Search Results Factor
SEO is important for mobile devices because well over 50% of searches that turn into sales are being done on mobile devices, making the experience the user has with the responsiveness and speed of loading on their phone critical. Google ranks this among the highest determining factors in its search algorithm, making it crucial to excellent search ranking.
How Domain Age, Authority, and Backlinks
Google knows that most spam sites are new and do not have the longevity of reputable websites. Usually, their renewal date is short, so they give credit to longer-tenured websites with renewal dates well out into the future. You cannot change when your website started; you can, however, renew your site well into the future. We suggest registering it for the maximum time possible.
To improve the SEO authority of your website you must develop quality links into your website. To enhance the quality of your backlinks, focus on three things:
- Obtain high authority backlinks from well-respected sources. A simple example would be a link from the Wall Street Journal would be more potent than a backlink from a newsletter with ten subscribers.
- Make sure you do not have spammy links; Google hates these backlinks from low-quality websites that exist for no other reason than to create backlinks.
- Get links from websites that can generate traffic relevant traffic for you, showing that it is useful to the end-user.
SEO Optimized Content
How to optimize content has changed as Google has improved its algorithm. In the bad old days, it was common to use a variety of spammy methods like keyword stuffing. These methods no longer work. Google is looking to fulfill the intent of the searcher rather than just returning the most likely result based solely on the keyword.
To optimize your content, you need to make it informative and valuable. The signals that google allows you to use, such as titles H1, H2, H3, meta descriptions, alt tags ensure that Google will get your page in front of the right people. The right people will stay on your website, reading and engaging with you other content, proving your value to Google, and thus improving your position in the search rankings.
Technical SEO is the term for how Google crawls your site, influencing what traffic is sent and were. The information on your website must tell Google to send to your website the people who will be interested. Technical SEO is a very complicated thing. Here’s a great resource, courtesy of Google’s Webmaster Guidelines: https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/7451184?hl=en
Websites need to be easy to use so visitors can find the information they want, navigating to the relevant information when they need it. More content on a website makes it more informative, and it can also make it confusing. Great care must be used to make it clear the location of the material the visitor is looking for. Your layout should be simple and should answer the visitor’s questions right up front. The more clicks a user has to make before getting the content they want, the more likely they are to go back and find another site to give them the information.
The importance of social signals is increasing. Included in Social Signals are: how many people like your brand on Facebook, the number of Facebook shares, and the size of your Instagram following. Instagram shares and shares on other platforms are helpful as well. Posting curated articles will not have the impact you want; you should strive to create and participate in actual conversations with your prospects and work on building community.
SEO Depends on Real Business Information
Google needs to know the name, address, and phone number of your business in order to send you the right people. This is especially true for local search. Your listings in directories and review sites should be correct and consistent, even down to the spelling of your business name. The company with the most accurate and relevant listings wins.
In summary, of the over two hundred items in the Google algorithm, these 10 are the most important. Do not become complacent; the rules change often, sometimes daily. Winning the SEO battle means ranking above your competition and, if your website is built for conversion, more click throughs and conversions.